Citizen Action Monitor

We are headed for a world of less, whether we choose it or not — Nate Hagens (38)

We don’t really want more, we just want more than our next-door neighbor.

No 2320 Posted by fw, June 29, 2018

To access links to all other posts in this series, click on the Tab titled “Where Are We Going? by Dr. Nate Hagens” in the top left margin.

“Once our basic needs are met we don’t really want more, we just want more than the guy/gal next door.  We are headed for a world with less physical throughput whether we choose it or not.  But this does not mean we have a world of ‘less’ experiences, happiness, meaning and good lives. … Less and more need to be unpacked beyond their monetary labels and the gut reaction to hearing them. As individuals we can strive to be happier with absolute wealth and focus less on relative (this takes training and effort).”Resilience.org 

In yesterday’s post, Pt.37, continuum 36, and the first entry in the category titled The Individual, Dr. Hagens noted that initial reaction to his narrative of emerging energy and environmental issues are, at the extreme ends of a continuum, either fatalistic — “We’re Doomed” — or denialist — “There’s No Problem.” Both reactions have one thing in common – they obviate the need for individuals to act responsibly.

In today’s post, Pt. 38, continuum 37, Dr. Hagens argues that, for most of us – excluding the poor —  having less – as long as everyone else had less – would actually be healthy and a good thing. Less, in this case, means less physical stuff. It doesn’t mean less of the things that really matter in our lives. [See also: Attempts to equate prosperity with happiness and life satisfaction fail to measure up by Tim Jackson].

Below is the embedded video of Hagens’ 60-minute address, followed by an 18-minute Q&A session. My transcript of Pt. 38, continuum 37, runs from 49:22 to 50:47.

Alternatively, a video of Hagens’ talk, along with a “loosely related” essay on the talk, are available by clicking on the following linked title. This version, published by Resilience.org, also includes excellent readers’ comments, including responses by Hagens.

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Where are we going? by Nate Hagens, Resilience.org, May 8, 2018

TRANSCRIPT (from 49:22 to 50:47)

[THE INDIVIDUAL] –

49:22[Continuum 37: Less vs More] – Less versus More. Even this story that I’m telling you, there’s a physical aspect to it: “Oh. I made 50 grand last year. He’s saying that I might make 45 in 10 years. That sucks.” When you hear that story, it’s our optimal foraging theory*, animal brains, that are not experiencing the physical money or the physical resources. We’re just experiencing the story. And [it’s] the story we don’t like. Hearing the story is like getting a shrimp and a little asparagus. It’s like, I don’t want to have less. [*an animal wants to gain the most benefit (energy) for the lowest cost during foraging (hunting) so that it can maximize its fitness. OFT helps predict the best strategy that an animal can use to achieve this goal].

49:59 – So less versus more needs to be unpacked because for most of us, having less – as long as everyone else had less – would actually be healthy and a good thing. Not if you’re really poor, then that’s not true. But less means less physical stuff. It doesn’t mean less of the things that really matter in our lives.

50:18 — People like me have been saying these things for 20, 30, 40 years with no response. People don’t want to consider a world with less. The sound of it is like nails on a chalkboard. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I would argue, physically yes [we’ll have less], but in many other ways we’re going to have a different future and it could be very exciting in many ways.

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[Resilience.org Supplement]Less vs More – We have financialized the human experience, parsing everything of substance, depth and meaning from our tribal past into electronic/linen markers.  Once our basic needs are met we don’t really want more, we just want more than the guy/gal next door.  We are headed for a world with less physical throughput whether we choose it or not.   But this does not mean we have a world of ‘less’ experiences, happiness, meaning and good lives.  The average Guatemalan makes under $10,000 per year but has life satisfaction and quality the same as countries with 5-10X as much income.  Less and more need to be unpacked beyond their monetary labels and the gut reaction to hearing them.  As individuals we can strive to be happier with absolute wealth and focus less on relative (this takes training and effort).

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About Dr. Nathan John Hagens – Hagens, 51, worked on Wall Street at Lehman Brothers and Salomon Brothers for 10 years before closing his own hedge fund in 2003 to develop a systems synthesis approach to the human predicament. At present, Dr. Hagens is a professor at the University of Minnesota where he teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar called Reality 101, A Survey of Human Predicament. The readings and lectures cover literature in systems ecology, energy and natural resources, thermodynamics, history, anthropology, human behavior, neuroscience, environmental science, sociology, economics, globalization/trade, and finance/debt with an overarching goal to give students a general understanding of how our human ecosystem functions as a whole.

Visit Nate Hagens’ personal website at The Monkey Trap.

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This entry was posted on June 29, 2018 by in academic counterpower, counterpower of one, information counterpower, political action and tagged , .
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